No matter what product you sell or what service you offer there are millions of examples of once prominent and admired brands that have fallen or even disappeared, especially in hard times like right now. Nevertheless, there are also a number of brands that have managed to come back successfully in recent years. Old Spice, for example, one of my favorite brand stories about how a grandpa deodorant becomes one of the sexiest brands overnight! Forbes summarized the top 10 comeback brands of 2011. All these examples described how brands restored to the status of their golden ages. Regardless of the brand revitalization approach that they have applied to make a come back, these changes have been more revolutionary than evolutionary.
The first step to rescue a brand starts from checking with the original sources of brand equity. The more value that a brand possesses, the better chance that its comeback trial will be smooth and successful.
- Norman Berry at Ogilvy & Mather once said: “The brands most likely to respond to revitalization efforts are those that have clear and relevant values that have been left dormant for a long time, haven’t been well expressed in the marketing and communications recently, have been violated by product problems, cost reductions, and so on.”
To accurately characterize the breadth and depth of a brand equity, marketers need to conduct a comprehensive brand measurement (or brand audit) to understand current status of the brand sources, including brand awareness, strength, brand image, and uniqueness of brand associations and brand responses from relationships with existing customers. There are many different ways to construct detailed measurements from market research, comprehensive brand equity models, etc. Qualitative research techniques, for instance should help identify possible brand associations and sources.
Then, marketers must decide whether positioning should be changed in order to bring the brand back to life and, if it is to be changed, which position to adopt. Sometimes, the old brand position is no longer viable, thus it is often easier to reinvent a new position strategy. Other times, the problems do not lie in the position strategies but in marketing activities that have failed to deliver effective communications. In this case marketers need to re-focus on the basic marketing mix and develop marketing communication activities that can recapture audience attention.
Finally, it is vital to dig out the deep rooted reasons, whether it is marketing failure (insufficient marketing communications), product failure (functional defaults), or reputation damage (unethical business practices). In the latter of these cases strong and negative brand associations may be difficult to overcome. There are still successful cases, for example Johnson & Johnson’s Tylenol recall is a great example. In that case they didn’t avoid public attention or shirk responsibility. On the contrary they dealt with it directly: tell the truth, provide facts and context, educate the media, avoid “No Comment” statements, provide positive information of your company, and demonstrate concern. In the end the product failure was due to on the shelf product tampering by a deranged individual and it was not the fault of the company. Because of the honest and powerful way they dealt with it their brand took minimal damage in the short term and came out of it stronger in the long run.
With a solid understanding of both current and desired brand goals and solid research into brand equity in hand marketers can then go about revitalizing a brand by refreshing old sources or creating new ones to achieve the intended position. We’ll discuss two main options of expanding brand awareness and improving brand image next week.